Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

Recent Reading

Recent Reading

  • The Death of the Necromancer, by Martha Wells; Avon, 1998. I've read two of her other books (Wizard Hunters and The Element of Fire) and this one, like the others, is very good. The setting is Ile-Rein again, but this time in a more psuedo-Victorian era, nicely adapted to the mostly subtle magic of Ile-Rein. I highly recommend these books, and am going to look for more of her work. (There is at least one of hers that I have not read yet: City of Bones.)

  • Sorcerer: An Intense Roleplaying Game, by Ron Edwards; Adept Press, 2001. This small, slim hardback volume (260mm by 175mm, 144 pages, counting the two pages of ads at the back) is the core rulebook for Edwards roleplaying game, Sorcerer. It has a crisp, clean black- and-white interior design and layout by Paul Mason with a modicum of black-and-white art by divers hands and a color jacket cover with creepy and effective art by Jeff Kromer. The writing is casual but not chatty and very clear. It can be ordered directly from the game's home page, http://www.sorcerer-rpg.com/ or bought at a good local games store. Most existing roleplaying games give a lot of attention to the rules of the game and some give a lot of attention to the setting of the game and a few give some attention to the atmosphere of the game, but few give much attention to the purpose of the game and how the setting and the rules contribute to the purpose, and this lack of attention can be a considerable source of dissatisfaction with the game, the gaming group, and the rules of the game. Ron Edwards' essay "System Does Matter", published on the web and as an appendix in Sorcerer, gives the gamer some good tools for considering what they want out of a roleplaying game and judging whether a particular set of rules will help them achieve that, and anyone who is interested in roleplaying games should read it: it's probably one of the simpliest coherent places to start if you are interested in the theory of roleplaying. 1 In Sorcerer Ron Edwards takes the theory that begins with that article and applies it (along with his ideals of creator-ownership of roleplaying games) and produces an innovative, focused roleplaying game with simple, clear rules that encourage flexibility and creativity while discarding many of the traditional trappings and constaints of roleplaying games. Sorcerer does this by concentrating on Narrativist play, where the desired outcome of a roleplaying session is a good story. This does not mean forcing the players along some pre-determined story, however; instead, Sorcerer concentrates on techniques for designing characters, adventures, and campaigns and tools for running games in such a way that good stories result from actual play.

  • Sorcerer & Sword, by Ron Edwards; Adept Press, 2001. In this first supplement for Sorcerer Ron Edwards adapts his roleplaying game for playing games based on 1920s and 30s pulp fantasy and its inheritors: the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard, the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories of Fritz Leiber, the Elric stories of Michael Moorcock, the Kane stories of Karl Edward Wagner, and many others. Like the original game, Sorcerer & Sword is a practical application of Ron Edwards' theory of roleplaying; in this case, to providing the tools for a gaming group to create their own sword and sorcery epic. In many ways it runs counter to most roleplaying games, eschewing complicated worldbuilding before play in favor of creating a world through play.

1

There's a great deal of insightful, worthwhile writing on the theory of roleplaying in the archives of the newsgroup rec.games.frp.advocacy, but it can be very difficult to excavate.

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